MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida airport is ready to help COVID-19 vaccine distribution take flight, as the vaccine is expected to arrive at hospitals soon.

A coronavirus vaccine could be on the way in just a matter of weeks, and when that happens, officials at Miami International Airport said the vaccine will not only be safely stored but also shipped out to parts of the Southeastern U.S. and beyond.

“We’re poised and ready for this process,” said Mike Parra, CEO of shipping giant DHL Americas.

It’s possible the Food and Drug Administration could greenlight a vaccine as soon as December, and both MIA and the cargo airlines that fly in and out of it are ready to play a major role in getting that vaccine to residents in the U.S. and Latin America.

“The guys and gals that operate 24/7 understand the role that they play,” said Parra.

DHL has refrigerated cargo storage space at MIA that is crucial for vaccine distribution, since they need to be kept at below freezing temperatures, both while in flight and on the ground.

“There will be basically a sensor that will travel with every one of the shipments, so that we know what is going on, not only from a temperature perspective, but where those shipments are at all times,” said Parra.

The COVID-19 vaccines are going to be shipped in containers with “Active Temperature Control System” signs that signal they are refrigerated cargo containers. The ones seen at the DHL facility are chilled with dry ice.

The vaccine Pfizer is now asking the federal government to approve needs to be kept at 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

Thanks to specialized dry ice shipping, DHL officials said they can keep cargo more than 100 degrees below zero.

Jimmy Nares with MIA said the airport is in a perfect position to be a jumping off point for storage and transport of the vaccine.

“We’re ahead of the game in preparing,” he said.

First, MIA has extensive cargo routes into Latin America and around the world.

Second, it has 27,000 square feet of refrigerated cargo space solely dedicated for pharmaceuticals.

“We have the capability, we have the expertise of properly handling cold chain pharmaceuticals,” said Nares.

MIA has also been exchanging notes with other pharma cargo hubs, like the Brussels and Singapore airports, to get vaccine preparations in place.

It’s a global logistical challenge, but Nares said it’s a challenge worth taking.

“For us, we see it as playing a key role for the improvement of lives, saving of lives,” he said. “It’s a challenge but also a opportunity for us to play an important role.”

MIA officials said on top of the dedicated refrigerated pharmaceutical cargo space it already has, there is additional cooled storage space, both at the airport and right outside, that could be used if necessary.

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